The wait is over in our countdown of the top 10 athletes of the 2014-15 year. Departed senior and former starting point guard for the Runnin Utes, Delon Wright, tops our list of amazing Utah athletes of the past year. The 6-5 senior guard played for only two years at Utah, but left a big mark during his short time in Salt Lake City.
The rangy, defensive minded guard from Los Angeles was, by almost every statistical measure, the most important player on a sweet 16 team that went toe to toe with the eventual NCAA champions. Wright led the team in most basic statistics, finishing first on the team in points, assists, steals, field goal attempts, free throw attempts and minutes played. He finished second on the team in both rebounds and blocks, playing primarily as a point guard. In advanced statistics, Wright also stood out, finishing first on the team in player efficiency rating and offensive rating.
Wright wasn't just the best player on the Utes, he was arguably the best player in the Pac-12, and one of the best player's in the country. Wright finished the 2014-15 season in the top ten for minutes played, 2-point field goal percentage, free throws attempted, free throws made, free throw percentage, assists, assists per game, steals, steals per game and points scored in the Pac-12.
In advanced statistics, Wright finished first in the category that matters most. Wins. Using basketball-reference.com's statistical analysis of a player's importance to a team's success, Wright was by far the most important player in the Pac-12. Using their method of calculating "win shares" where three shares equals one win, Wright finished first in almost every category. He was first in offensive win shares with 5.3, first in total win shares with 8.4 and first in win shares per 40 minutes with .289. In defensive win shares, he finished second with 3.1 win shares to Gary Payton's 3.2. He also finished second in the Pac-12 in player efficiency rating, true shooting percentage, and offensive rating. He finished third in defensive rating, steal percentage and assist percentage, and fourth in points produced.
During the past season, Wright became the first player to be named first team All-Pac-12 for consecutive seasons, just one season after becoming the first player in school history to be named All-Pac-12. He was named to the Pac-12 All-defensive team for the second consecutive year, along with making the 50 man watch list for the Naismith College Player of the Year award and the Wooden Award. He was also named the recipient of the 2015 Bob Cousy award, given to the best point guard in the nation.
There is no question Delon Wright was the engine that made last year's team go. Without Wright, a Sweet 16 appearance would not have been possible. His importance to the team was clearly displayed against Duke, when he landed in foul trouble and left the floor for the final minutes of the first half, allowing Duke to take control of the game. In a sport where a single player can dramatically impact the game, Wright was able to tilt the court in Utah's direction throughout most of the season.
Wright was an elite college player, the likes of which don't come around that often. With his departure to the NBA, Wright leaves some big shoes to fill in the Utah backcourt. Who replaces Wright's production remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain, Wright will go down as one of the greatest guards to ever play for Utah.